Swan Taxis' plan to charge $9 for taxis booked more than 24 hours ahead has sparked a furious reaction from the public as drivers who spoke to _The West Australian _yesterday overwhelmingly rejected the scheme.
Readers flooded _The West _with letters criticising the plan, 93 per cent of more than 2100 respondents to a poll at thewest.com.au were opposed, Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi labelled it "hilariously wrong" and the Greens called it "extortion".
_The West _revealed yesterday that Transport Minister Troy Buswell had approved the fee, which Swan Taxis wants to encourage drivers to turn up on time for jobs booked more than 24 hours in advance.
Passengers booking with Swan, the dispatch service for about 90 per cent of Perth's taxis, would pay the usual $1.50 callout fee plus a $7.50 advance confirmed booking fee if the driver turned up within 10 minutes of the agreed time.
If the driver is later than 10 minutes, the $7.50 would not apply and if the driver does not turn up at all, Swan Taxis would fine the driver $50 - an amount that would be paid to a driver who picks up the job. Mr Buswell said most passengers would continue to book cabs in the usual way, so the new $7.50 fee would not apply. Disabled passengers who need to book multipurpose taxis or are eligible for the taxi-user subsidy will be exempt.
"Ultimately, the success or otherwise of this product offering will depend on customers and their willingness to take it up, which will of course represent their estimation of value for money," Mr Buswell said.
Ms Scaffidi said the fee was a retrograde step. "Arriving at a booked time or near to a booked time - I'm sorry, that's just a given," she said.
A Swan Taxis spokesman said yesterday the new fee was being tested with a select group of drivers. _The West _understands Swan has attracted less interest from drivers than it had hoped.
One driver predicted accepting the jobs would cost him money because he could not accept jobs for up to an hour before an advance booking in case it took him too far from the pick-up location.